Bikepacking the WRT 2018
The gods looked down on the 10th edition of the Welsh Ride Thing and said “you know what, these guys keep coming back year after year, they ride around in circles for 3 days, through rain and mist, get lost in the woods following trails their hearts are convinced must exist. They wade through streams and get stuck in bogs until they find themselves gravitating towards the sanctuary of a pub - let’s cut them some slack this year and give them some sun.”
And the gods were generous. “I’ve been waiting for this for 10 years” said Taylor - he should know, he’s been to every single one of them.
It was 3 days of sunblock, deep green valleys and blue skies. During the night the skies were clear, rewarding those with enough energy to climb out of the valleys to spectacular displays of stars above and wondrous cloud inversions below - banishing those who didn’t make it to a damp and misty slumber.
For the uninitiated, the WRT is an event firmly established in many bikepackers diaries as an opportunity to explore the Welsh countryside and spend a couple of nights out. It's a bit like orienteering: Stu sends you some grid references and you spend some time pouring over a map plotting a route between all or just some of them. No dibbers, nothing to do once you get to them, no one is going to care to check. Refreshing huh?! This year there was the added bonus of winning a Sonder Frontier frame by trying to find a golden bear Stuart had hidden somewhere in mid-Wales!
It all starts with the weigh-in. Here's how it works… Taylor takes your bike and hangs it from some scales along with all your kit. I had got mine down to 40lbs and that included the 2 emergency bananas I had stashed in my back pocket. Not bad but not the lightest - this came in at 31lbs - for which the prize was the traditional, and weighty, pork pie! The heaviest bike - weighed in at 132lbs (thanks Taylor for the correction): they will have got a dab on over the weekend.
My planned route was a good mix of terrain over some 200km. With a few long sections of leafy lane to look forward to I was riding the Sonder Camino Ti with 700 x 40c Nano tyres. In retrospect, swapping them out for a set of 650b Love Mud Volution wheels with Resolute tyres would have been a more comfortable option. I spotted a couple of other Sonders amongst the mix of hardtails, fat bikes, full-sussers, gravel bikes, someone was even towing a kid (did that count towards his weight?).
The luggage has got a bit more polished over the years and it’s now more common to see a GPS device strapped to riders handlebars rather than a paper map, but as long as you have a bike you can go bikepacking. For us at Alpkit it is a great event to get our kit tested and soak up some feedback in a one-on-one informal environment. Plus I had a couple of new bits and bobs to put through their paces.
The first was our new Exo-Rail seat mount: a looped rod that is clamped between your seat post providing additional stability to your seat pack. It was bomber, giving so much more confidence handling the bike over rough terrain and roaring down fast descents. The idea came when thinking up ideas for a dropper seat post system - but it was so good we thought 'why limit it to that?'. We have reworked the Koala seat pack so it just slides on, so smooth, so easy - something you will appreciate as you rush to get going after a wet bivvy. Owners of the original Koala will be pleased to know we have thought about backwards compatibility. You can still take advantage of the Exo-Rail with the additional attachment clips provided by the Lumpa sleeve.
I also had a new Glider frame bag. This sits alongside our Possum frame bag in the range with a specific shape designed for road and touring bike geometries. Compared to my Possum it felt like it has more useable space. Mine was made out of our new LS07 fabric. Its distinctive mottled grey fabric is both lighter and more durable than VX21 which is used on the majority of bike luggage available.
One thing I would do differently over every other year? Leave those 45Nrth Fasterkatt overboots behind - I didn’t get cold feet but they ended up as damp as every other year - bluurgh!
A big thanks to Stuart and Dee who welcome us all into their home every year. This 10th year is going to be fondly remembered, but hopefully we won’t have to wait another 10 years for more of the same - those hills sure don’t get any less steep. And congratualtions to Mike who found the Goldy bear to win a Sonder Frontier frame!!
Even parking involves a hill!